[KS] Re: NAKL's New Romanization Proposal

Maite Diez maite18 at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 30 09:51:24 EST 1999

Thank you for a well-argued piece that emphasizes the
real use of romanization: practicality for Koreans. 
How can we pretend to actualize every breath of a
language in print? The spoken word in any language can
never be fully captured by these two-dimensional
chicken scratches we call "writing".
Meanwhile, Koreans need a "transliteration they can
read and write reasonably fast." 
Until our print capabilities catch up with the
evolution of our communication systems, I will support
the form that functions best for the people who use it
More power to the scholars who continue to strive for
the most accurate system of writing breath. 
Thank you again, Mr. Cheong

Maite Diez

--- otfried at cs.ust.hk wrote:
>  > There is an old American saying, "If it ain't
> broke, don't
>  > fix it."  
> Dear list,
> I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with much of what
> has been said on
> the new proposed romanization scheme.  The argument
> "McCune-Reischauer
> isn't broken, don't fix it" is perhaps the most
> obvious fallacy.  Yes,
> M-R works well for publications in Korean studies,
> but it has been an
> abysmal failure in Korea.  To put it bluntly, except
> for some
> government publications, traffic signs and maps, M-R
> simply isn't used
> in Korea at all.  Yes, you can get MsWord to show a
> circumflex instead
> of a breve, but how is that going to help you when
> you need to enter
> your Korean address at Amazon.com?  I bet you aren't
> using M-R there
> either.  Koreans are in dire need of a
> transliteration scheme that
> works for their purposes, and any claims to the
> contrary will only
> stop them from listening to contributions to a
> better system.
> The other main argument "transliteration is mostly
> for foreigners" is
> as obviously false.  Contrary to what some people
> believe, most users
> of Korean transliteration schemes are Koreans. 
> There are far more
> Koreans living outside Korea than foreigners living
> in Korea.  Korean
> companies are everywhere on the globe.  They need to
> be able to do
> business and handle administrative tasks such as
> getting registered in
> foreign countries.  The breves and accents have been
> a nightmare to
> them.
> I know what I am talking about, since my birthtown's
> name contains an
> umlaut, and I still wonder every time I fill in an
> immigration form
> how I'm supposed to write it.  Sure, MsWord allows
> you to use the
> circumflex instead of the breve, but how does that
> help you when
> trying to get the bank name right on the telegraphic
> transfer form?
> Some of my colleagues have names with accents or
> umlauts, and find
> them crippled at every conference I meet them.  A
> Czech colleague has
> completely given up on the hacek on his last name. 
> Even in the
> recently (re)published version of Gari Ledyard's PhD
> thesis (done with
> modern electronic typesetting), the accents are
> typeset awfully.
> Have you ever met a Korean who romanizes her name
> with a breve?  I
> suspect the Korean foreign ministry wouldn't even
> issue such a
> passport.  A notarized, "official" translator whom I
> had translate a
> Korean family register didn't use M-R. In romanizing
> personal names,
> chaos reigns, and it seems unlikely that this will
> ever change.
> Studying the addresses on my Korean friend's
> business cards, I can't
> find many breves there, either. Most likely is a M-R
> romanization with
> accents and apostrophes removed, but often one will
> find the pre-1983
> romanization, or sometimes a pig-English
> romanization.  When I've
> lived in P'ohang, I've never seen the name of the
> city written that
> way, except on traffic signs.  My colleagues would
> "correct" me if I
> wrote it with an apostrophe.
> Or imagine you are travelling overseas, visiting a
> university for
> joint research as I'm doing now, or just walking
> into an internet cafe
> on vacation to spend 10 minutes to send an Email
> home.  There's no CJK
> support installed, of course.  I have seen Japanese
> in that situation
> write a note in Romaji, and many mainland Chinese
> could probably use
> Pinyin.  Koreans will give up and write in English. 
> Koreans are
> deprived from using their own language since there
> is no
> transliteration they can read and write reasonably
> fast. (This is, of
> course, a matter of education---but M-R has priced
> itself out of this
> market.) 
> Much fuzz has been made of the change from a
> "foreigner-centric"
> system to a "Korean-centric" system. It has even be
> alluded that there
> was a kind of "hidden agenda."  I can't understand
> this excitement.
> Isn't it obvious?  If the government of Korea
> designs a
> transliteration scheme, it does so for the benefit
> of the Korean
> people. Whether or not the same scheme can be used
> by scholars in
> Korean studies is rather irrelevant.  After all,
> scholars will always
> invent their own systems.  Linguists, for instance,
> still stick to the
> Yale system.  If scholars can't even agree on a
> system among
> themselves, why do they expect Koreans to look to
> them for the answer?
> Foreigners dealing with Koreans certainly deserve to
> be heard, but in
> the end they'll fare better with a system that
> Koreans use properly
> than with a more "foreigner-friendly" system that
> Koreans don't
> understand and therefore don't use.
> To bring it to the point, the purpose of the current
> proposal is NOT
> to replace M-R by a new system.  The hope is to
> ESTABLISH a system
> that will actually be used, instead of the current
> chaos.  The
> proposed system has better chances to achieve this
> than any of the
> previous ones, in particular M-R.
> The proposed system has been called
> foreigner-unfriendly.  The only
> argument in favor of this claim seems to be the use
> of EO and EU.  The
> outcry!  How do they dare to revive those ugly
> dissonants from the
> remote past?  Doesn't EVERYBODY know by now that
> Seoul is the WRONG
> romanization for So^ul?
> Contrarily, I think it must have taken a brilliant
> and courageous mind
> to come up with the proposed solution.  It is as
> simple as ingenious.
> If one wants to avoid accents, some vowels have to
> be written with
> digraphs.  Reviving the "ugly dissonants" has the
> advantage that you
> don't need to teach it to anybody: EVERYBODY in
> Korea, including
> foreigners, already knows that EO and EU stand for
> /o^/ and /u^/.
> Even in the age of M-R, EO and EU are omnipresent in
> Korea, and most
> foreigners will learn it at the latest when they
> step off the plane.
> EO and EU have been called ugly.  I find that hard
> to follow.  WU and
> YE for /u/ and /e/ in Yale romanization are far
> uglier, and still Yale
> is used routinely by linguists.  But of course I'm
> prejudiced---look
> at my last name.
> The other main change of the proposal is
> representation of the
> unvoiced allophone of the unaspirated lentis stops
> by voiced letters.
> This makes the proposed system far easier to use for
> Koreans, since
> they do not perceive the voicing as relevant.  I
> believe it also makes
> it EASIER to use for foreigners as well. I have
> often observed
> foreigners being misunderstood because they
> aspirated the stop.  If
> they voice it instead, they sound a bit wrong, of
> course, 
=== message truncated ===

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